Outdoor living spaces have become an extension of the kitchen and family room as more homeowners request features traditionally found inside the house. These kinds of amenities reflect a desire to establish the backyard as a place where people can relax and enjoy themselves without the cost and hassle of taking a vacation.
A simple patio with a stand-alone grill and perhaps a picnic table will no longer appease most homeowners. Clients increasingly seek an elaborate outdoor kitchen that can act as the center of family life throughout the summer, and they want to ensure functionality by specifying products such as smoker ovens, warming trays and wine and keg coolers.
“They want it to be reflective of what they put into the house,” says Josh Kane, president and head designer of Kane Landscapes in Sterling, Virginia. “They don’t want to have a beautiful indoors with all this advanced technology and these great appliances, and then step out outdoors and there’s a simple charcoal grill.”
The combination of amenities allows homeowners to entertain their family and friends without shuttling in and out of the house. People have become accustomed to advanced features like flat-screen TVs and surround sound systems, so they expect to access them no matter their location.
“They’ve been to resorts, they’ve been to themed restaurants, and they want to bring that home,” says Bruce Allentuck, president of Allentuck Landscaping Co. in Clarksburg, Maryland. “They want their home to feel like a resort.”
As more homeowners request advanced features, the ability to manage these gadgets via mobile devices becomes even more important. The same technology that enables clients to turn on their foyer lights when they will be away for the night or adjust the thermostat on their way home from work can be applied to the outdoors.
“People who have that inside their homes want it outside their homes so they can control everything like the fountain [and] the lights from their iPad or smartphone,” says Kane, a member of the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP).
The increased connectivity afforded by this smart-home technology further integrates the outdoor living spaces into the rest of the house. In fact, many homeowners anticipate the ability to command outdoor features remotely because the practice has become standard in other areas of the house.
“It’s almost automatic with some of the features now,” says Allentuck, also a member of NALP. “You click a button and the fire starts, or you click a button and the water feature turns on. Those parts are becoming commonplace just as they did indoors.”
The popularity of swimming pools continues to decrease as more homeowners develop reservations about the safety and maintenance issues associated with them. Clients still desire the presence of water within their outdoor living spaces, but they tend to opt for features such as a waterfall or a spring to achieve that sense of tranquility.
“A lot of people don’t want a pool, or they belong to a community pool and that satisfies their need,” Allentuck says. “They don’t necessarily need to have one at their house.”
“They want a place where they can relax out back, and even just that running water sound being as simple as a big bubbling vase can do the trick,” Kane says.
Allentuck predicts homeowners will eventually look into creative approaches for keeping water on their property, whether they want to incorporate rain barrels or a similar feature to capture water from downspouts and use it productively. “We’re definitely seeing more sustainable landscaping,” he says.
The heightened attention paid to outdoor living spaces these days indicates an aspiration to increase the worth of a house while augmenting the opportunities for fun. “It’s part of the investment in your home, but it’s also just for your enjoyment,” Kane says.
“We see a lot of people put a fair amount of money into it because they want to make their home a place where they can step outside and enjoy a beautiful spring day or the cool summer evening,” he adds.
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